Kearney – The 2020-21 NCAA Division II basketball season tips off tonight when the MIAA begins play as UNK will host Emporia State. The league is one of the few in D2 (23 conferences overall) playing during the 2020 calendar year; the majority of D2 schools start after January 1. The hope for the MIAA is to get all 22 games in between now and the end of February. The MIAA Tournament will once again be in Kansas City the first week of March; the NCAA Tourney field will be altered in some capacity. Information on that event will be announced in the coming months. Due to recent COVID protocols, the general public will not be able to attend Loper home games first semester. Fans can watch all the action via The MIAA Network as well as listen to the basketball games on The River 93.1 FM and 106.9 FM. The Lopers posted a 16-13 (10-9) mark last year, knocking off two NCAA Tournament qualifiers along the way as well as having two four-game winning streaks. Head coach Kevin Lofton and his staff must replace four senior starters but 10 returners are back with five newcomers coming aboard. The men’s game begins at 7:30pm
The Loper women are coming off a 26-6 campaign in which it was regionally and nationally ranked, had several long winning streaks and placed third in the league standings. Just missing out on the NCAA Tourney, UNK returns its entire roster. Added for good measure is the return of forwards Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) and Alexus Moes (Smithville, Mo.) from medical redshirts and three talented true freshmen. Head coach Carrie Eighmey and her staff saw the 2019-20 starting five earn some type of All-MIAA honor. That now veteran group is graduate student Haley Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.), fellow guard Kelsey Sanger (Crofton), wings Maegan Holt (Council Bluffs, Ia.) and Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) and post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn). Off the bench forwards Madison Dreckman (Le Mars, Ia.) and Elisa Backes (Salina, Kan.) also appeared in all 32 games. The women’s game will start at 5:30pm.